Safe Passage Project recently received funding from The New York Community Trust to spearhead a research partnership with a leading sociologist at The City University of New York (CUNY). The goal of the project is to improve the program experience for young clients of color while creating internal policies to serve them more effectively. By learning directly from our clients and alumni who have received the benefits of our legal assistance, we seek to better promote their leadership and development.
We also propose to share both the outcomes of this work, as well as the lessons learned from administering this project, with a broader field in New York City. The grant will specifically fund research to identify ways to reduce children’s trauma and anxiety during deportation proceedings.
In 2021, U.S. border agents apprehended more than 130,000 young people traveling to the U.S. through Mexico without a parent or guardian. These immigrants are not entitled to an attorney at government expense under U.S. law, and without one, the odds are that after hearings, they will be sent back to the violence they fled. Safe Passage Project provides representation to prevent deportation. Without this representation, 17% of children win their cases; with a lawyer from Safe Passage Project, over 90% of our clients win their cases and the right to remain in the U.S.
But the process can take a toll on our young clients. To prepare their cases, lawyers must ask about terrible things that have happened to them and their loved ones.
“As immigration attorneys, we understand the legal process that our clients must traverse,” said Nicole Johnson, acting legal director at Safe Passage, “but we cannot truly understand what the system is like for the young people we represent. Because of this, it is important that we learn from these young people so that we can provide them with the services that they need.”
Upon completion of this initiative, we anticipate having a set of organizational policies that center our client’s voices; an exit survey that can be used to capture feedback from future clients; and a white paper and webinar to share our learnings with peer organizations.